Here is an interview with Patrice Girod, ScienceFictionArchives.com Exhibition Director, discusses past and future Sci-Fi exhibitions and gives his opinion as Star Wars specialist on Star Wars: Episode VII and the Lucasfilm acquisition by Disney.
ScienceFictionArchives.com : Activity Review with the Exhibition Director, Patrice Girod
What is the result of past ScienceFictionArchives.com exhibitions?
Our results have been quite good so far. Our company, created by Arnaud Grunberg in 2008 withBenjamin Fleuier, movie Producer Robert Watts and myself as partners, is still quite young but has already been credited with a number of successful exhibitions. We started in 2010 with "Science (and) Fiction: Imagination Meets Reality" an ambitious exhibition which required two years to develop and produce, and took place at the Paris Science Museum, on an impressive 2000 m2, devoted to over 200 artifacts, including the full-size Viper from Battlestar Galactica. We then followed up with four projects that have all opened in 2012: the "Star Wars Toys" exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts (Louvre building) "And Man… Created Robots" at the Museum of Arts et Métiers, "Science & Fiction" at the “Maison Folie” Wazemmes near Lille in partnership with La Cité des Sciences, and "Siudmak Univers Fantastiques Infinis" at Sannois’ Museum.
We were amazed to see that all four exhibitions have broken each of these museums’ attendance records. For instance, the number of visitors of the “Arts et Métiers” museum literally doubled, which brought their people to ask us for a new exhibit, destined for a family audience.
What will this new exhibition be about?
This exhibition is titled "Robots: From Movies To Toys" will open on July 23rd. It will present movie robots as well as robot toys and merchandise. Its angle will be to question whether movies influence manufacturers, or the other way around. This will be illustrated through the presentation of actual movie robots, like R2-D2, Robby the Robot, T-1000 and T-800 from Terminator, as well as many toys. This exhibition will be a part of permanent exhibitions at the Museum of Arts et Métiers, and we are confident the magic of robots and toys will fascinate children and grown-ups alike.
Was the exhibition "Star Wars Toys" at the Museum of Arts Décoratifs easier to set up than the one at Cité des Sciences?
It wasn’t. Even though it was displayed in a smaller space, it represented a bigger challenge, as we had more than 400 artifacts on display and had to work with various partners, including the museum, Hasbro and Lucasfilm. The more people are involved, the more complex the approval system becomes. But thankfully, the willingness and professionalism of everyone involved made possible this exhibition existed.
What has been the highlight of this exhibition?
I think it was the opening, as it was the end of a year of work and it was a joyful moment to finally present our Star Wars collection to the public for the first time. We were fortunate to have collectors from all around the world to admire pieces like the original Star Wars painting by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt or the prototype Kenner 12-inch figures from The Empire Strikes Back. That evening, we have been honored with the présence of a few notable personalities, such as Tom Fitzgerald (Executive VP and Senior Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering) responsible for Disney theme parks and attractions, and especially Star Tours 1 & 2. I have great admiration for him and, see it as a coincidence or not, he was with us on opening night, just thee weeks before the news broke of Lucasfilm’s acquisition. Artist Siudmak, André Kobtzeff (Star Wars Reunion host), PF Periquet from Hasbro France, and Nigel Bratcher, from Walt Disney Imagineering France were also among our friends that evening, as well as special effects wizard Robert Blalack, who won an Academy Award in 1978 for Star Wars. Unfortunately our Honorary President, Producer Robert Watts, could not be in Paris that evening, however his longtime collaborator, Production Manager, Pat Carr, was with us. I think we were in good company that night...
How do you explain the success of your exhibitions?
I think ScienceFictionArchives.com’s strength lies in its collections of objects. Therefore, each time we open a new exhibition, we introduce objects of popular culture into museums, which are familiar and accessible to wide audiences. Our prerogative is to convince Museums that our so-called "popular culture" archives have their place in their institutions. It is not always easy but it is up to us to find the right arguments to realize this reality and its merits. But little by little, as we get our point across, skepticism and prejudice eventually fade away, and in the end, the actual museum figures speak for themselves. Our company’s, and our collection’s notoriety build up following each exhibition, and at the same time, people’s mentalities and perceptions tend to evolve more favorably towards the genre we work in. To be able to bring 1978 Star Wars Kenner action figures to the Museum of “Arts Décoratifs”, itself located in one of the wings of the Louvre Museum, the most famous museum in the world, is not trivial. What we appreciate the most is the idea that our exhibition attracts people to museums they wouldn’t attend otherwise. And we are most proud when the same people decide to return to the same museum, to visit another exhibition.
Are you working on another exhibitions?
Definitely. Our activities are similar to filmmaking in the sense that the development process is relatively long. Although I can not be more specific at this time, I can reveal we are planning to travel abroad. The best way to follow our news is to visit our website regularly and like our Facebook page :www.facebook.com/ScienceFictionArchives
Publisher and Editor in Chief of the French Lucasfilm Magazine, Exhibition curator of Star Wars The Exhibit in 2005 and Star Wars Toys in 2005, you’ve worked with Lucasfilm Ltd. for almost 20 years. As a Star Wars specialist how did you react to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm?
I think it is the best thing that could happen to the saga. Over the past few decades, Disney has increasingly shown its competence on several levels. In film production with the Pixar, Marvel and Muppets brands, in television with ABC, and its Theme Park activities. There is no other company that is better integrated in the entertainment field than Disney. Eight months ago, I couldn’t imagine I would ever see a new Star Wars movie, but thanks to Disney, and Bob Iger’s talent as a negotiator, our joy and hopes have been restored, which is already a feat in itself.
Some fans are quite vocal about their doubts regarding this acquisition as well as J.J. Abrams’ being chosen to direct Episode VII. What is your response to that?
Even though I do not share necessarily those fans doubts and fears, I understand their reaction as more emotional, than anything else. This saga is subject to such passionate outpours, that sometimes, the fans words can be as strong, or even as extreme as their passion. Also, the fear of the unknown is a human feeling. I think we should always have faith in the future. For those who have doubts, I would advise to wait to see Episode VII before criticizing, and judge from evidence." We will see? For my part, having discovered Star Wars in 1977 at age 10, I can only be happy with what Disney’s already announced. First, they named Kathleen Kennedy at the head of Lucasfilm, one of the best Hollywood producers, and longtime collaborator and friend of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Also, I believe the script is in the right hands, as the new episode is being written by Michael Arndt, who wrote two wonderful movies, Little Miss Sunshine and tear-jerking Toy Story 3! In addition, Arndt is working with one of the best Star Wars writer, Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strike Back, and Return of the Jedi not to mention Raiders of the Lost Ark... Who could ask for anything more? As for J.J Abrams, didn’t he prove with Super 8,Mission Impossible 3 and the Star Trek reboot, that he is one of the most efficient directors and especially someone the studio can trust in this huge and expensive adventure. See you in 2015 for the new adventures awaiting in a galaxy far, far away....!
Home page photo of Arnaud Grunberg, Patrice Girod et Benjamin Fleurier: photo by Sébastien Galano
Patrice Girod, Arnaud Grunberg and Tom Fitzgerald: photo by Luc Boegly-Arts Décoratifs